How Much Does Religion Matter?

Religion plays a far less central role in the lives of Britons than of many other peoples, according to an international Ipsos Global @dvisor survey released on 6 July. Full data tables are not yet available, but a press release and presentation slides will be found at:

Fieldwork was undertaken online between 6 and 21 April 2011 among adults aged 16-64 in 24 developed and developing countries. There were 18,473 respondents, including approximately 1,000 in Great Britain, all members of the Ipsos Online Panel.

Only 29% of Britons agreed that religion provides the common values and ethical foundations that diverse societies need to thrive in the 21st century. This was 19% below the weighted global average, putting Britain in 18th equal position.

Britain occupied exactly the same slot in terms of the number professing no religion – 37% compared with the international average of 25%, peaking in Japan (67%) and China (62%).

Even among the three-fifths of Britons who proclaimed a faith, the strength of their affiliation was variable. Thus:

  • Just 52% said that it was an important part of their lives, ranking Britain 17th in the world league table, and falling to 48% for British Christians
  • No more than 14% described it as a major motivation for giving time or money to people in need, putting Britain in 20th equal place 
  • A mere 9% acknowledged their religion as the only true path to salvation, liberation or paradise, 16% less than the global mean, and in 15th equal position

Across all these measures, the most consistently religious nations were Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, both overwhelmingly Muslim, with Brazil, India, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the United States generally also performing well. Within Europe, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Spain and Sweden tended to be even less religious than Britain.

A final question probed inter-religious integration. Two-thirds of Britons had no friends or acquaintances (35%), or less than half (30%), from a different religion. Sweden apart, countries recording a higher figure than this were all religiously monochrome: Hungary, Italy, Poland and Spain (Catholic); Russia (Orthodox); Saudi Arabia and Turkey (Muslim); and China and Japan (no affiliation).

British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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